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The United States IS HUGE. The distances are long and (especially in the western U.S.) you will be miles from ANY services. It will be up to you to take care of your needs.
I strongly recommend that if you travel by car that you put together a little emergency kit.. It does not need to be expensive or elaborate. A little preparation and fore thought can turn what would be a life threatening situation into an adventure.
Here is a list of things I feel every over the road traveler should have in their car.
1. Water a gallon for each person is not excessive
2. Food enough for a couple of days. Things like cliff bars and dried soups. Things that store well.
3. A blanket and a little extra warm clothes.
4. A small first aid kit
Chances are that you will never need these things but it is foolish to drive through the desert, over the mountains or across the great plains without some preparation.
This seems overly cautious and your friends might make fun of you (like my father in law did till our water pump crapped out in the desert of Nevada). Trust me, it does seem ridiculous until you are standing beside a disabled vehicle in the dark miles from anywhere. Cell phone coverage is not universal in the American West.
You can throw this stuff together for just a few bucks in almost any discount store or grocery. So take a few minutes and relax and enjoy your American Road Trip.
Written Apr 7, 2013
I am not sure if this should be a transportation tip but here goes. The speed limits in the States are pretty reasonable and it is a good idea to keep an eye on them. The severity of the fines has risen drastically in the last 10 or so years. I often have friends that receive citations in excess of $150 and some over $200. 10 years ago the same infraction would have been$50.00.
If you keep your speed less than 5 miles an hour over the posted limit American peace officers will let you slide by but anything over 5mph beyond the posted speed and they will stop you.
We do not deploy speed cameras (like in Europe). If you get caught it will be by radar or lazer operated by an officer. While this will give you the chance to meet one of our dedicated members of law enforcement it will be expensive. It is much more fun and cost effective to buy the officer a cup of coffee in the local diner
Updated Apr 7, 2013
The first time I saw the headlines in the paper, "9 11 01" I thought it clever. The terrorist attacts were the ultimate in Emergencies. However, when I realized that the 9-11 stood for September 11th, I thought it ironic that the attacks happened on the day that would fit into our National Emergency phone number.
All that to say that while in the U.S.A., at any time you encounter a serious emergency, simply dial 911. You can be fined for using this number for frivolous reasons, but your reason does not need to be something as tragic as planes crashing into buildings, although that would qualify.
The 911 Emergency System makes it simple to get help and the number works in all cities, in all counties and in all states.
Hopefully you won't need to use the number, but knowing about it is useful.
Updated Nov 11, 2012
The availability of "internet cafes" where you would go to connect to the internet never really developed in the USA. Initially it was probably the widespread availability of land phone lines and the relatively low cost of a private connection that meant the people did not have to go out of the house to connect. And there are public places like libraries that offer some access. With the widening spread of wireless access, it did not look like "internet cafes" would ever happen.
So why suddenly are "internet cafes" springing up all over? Although there may be a sign saying that internet access, cash checking and fax service are available, when you look inside the place looks like an electronic Las Vegas gambling room. So far these places have been able to skirt the anti-gambling laws and regulations. And they seem to be proving that rich or poor Americans love to gamble. Even a poor economy has not stopped this from becoming a booming business.
Foreign visitors should not be fooled. In the USA a "internet cafe" will likely not be what you expect.
One would think that the politician/lawyers would quickly fix the laws, but with so much money involved a good number are just talking about regulation. One might consider this a different type of greening of America with gambling being the vehicle and the green being the US dollar.
Written Feb 3, 2012
Although credit cards are the most convenient money tool for travel in the US and can be used for most purchases, what happens if your card stops working or you lose it. There is a danger that you could find yourself in America with no money. Of course, you can have money wired to you from home, but this takes time.
Carrying a large amount of cash is never a good idea. Here is where traveler's checks in US dollar denominations could be very useful. There is no charge or commission at time of use, and you can use them in most places in the USA as cash that requires an ID [identification] and signature. If lost, the companies promise immediate replacement. Your only pre-trip concern might be what your up front cost may be in terms of conversion to dollars and the traveler's check purchase fee. This fee can be as much as 4 percent. At least, this is what my bank told me that they would be charging me if I did not qualify for free checks. It used to be 1 percent. For comparison, many visa cards charge 3 percent for foreign exchange plus something for ATM use.
In recent years travelers checks have fallen out of common use. Still businesses that accept personal checks are happy to accept travelers checks and understand that they are "good as cash", and in fact many that do not accept personal checks will still accept travelers checks. In my small non-touristic Florida town I often pay with unused traveler's checks. The slight inconvenience I have encountered is that many of the younger clerks feel that they have to call their manager for help because they lack experience or do not know the store policy. With one exception, the store had no problem accepting the checks. In the exception, the manager did not seem to know what a traveler's check was.
Updated Feb 3, 2012
I don't know the name of this system, we don't have those. My friend didn't know either when she drove route 66 summer 2010 (two flat tire). I know these exist but I didn't meet them on Route 66 but just after we came to Santa Monica. I decided to take a swim in the Ocean and took my clothes off, swimming suit on and I run to the sea. I was jumping around, took a short cut through parking area and didn't look ahead (funny, I never watch my legs when running). Bulls eye, my right foot just in the middle of two teeth causing only blood and tears, no broken bones.
No pedestrians! Yes, thank you, I know that I made a mistake, or two, I used left track and didn't read the warning (I read it, but in a speed of 10 mph my translation and aware time was longer than took to catch the hooks).
Written Jan 8, 2012
The USA have outdoor TV channels with tips for hunters how to best shoot trophy deer, but it would probably much easier to just run them over with your car. Deer don`t seem to value their life much, and especially during dusk or dawn they frequently cross the road. I had two near-collisions and would recommend NOT to drive during the night as the risk to bump into a deer is very high. Do yourself and Bambi a favour.
Updated Dec 1, 2011
There is a trap in all the states of America that it is best to try to avoid. It will require that you make an effort to look for places that have character. In large cities and increasingly in small towns along the interstate you will find the faceless and boring.
You could wake up in the parking lot of these fake places and be unable to determine where in the U.S you are because they are all the same. They contain the same national stores and restaurants that are found in almost every city in the U.S.
So if you want to see the real America you must look for the local and Main street businesses. You will be rewarded with a much more authentic experience.
You will find this especially true in the western states that are crisscrossed with limited access highways.
Written Jun 19, 2011
These tips do not only concern your stay in the US.
They are simply common sense tips for traveling abroad:
**Do not leave your bags unattended in public places, even if you are only walking away from them for a few minutes.
** Do not carry large amounts of cash or store money in your apartment or room. Better open a bank account where your money will be protected.
** Lock your door upon leaving your apartment or hotel room, even if only for a short period of time.
** Do not carry your passport everywhere. Make a photocopy of your important documents and carry them instead of the originals.
** Be aware of your surroundings. If you want to visit a new neighborhood, try to go during the day at first. Look at the map before you leave and note the nearest metro station and bus routes. Walk at your own pace, but look alert and purposeful.
** If a stranger does try to steal your bag, do not fight him or her. A few belongings are not worth risking serious injury.
Updated May 29, 2011
New Requirements for Travelers Between the United States and the Western Hemisphere
Travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada will be required to have a passport or other secure, accepted document to enter or re-enter the United States. This is a change from prior travel requirements and will affect all United States citizens entering the United States from countries within the Western Hemisphere who do not currently possess valid passports. This new requirement will also affect certain foreign nationals who currently are not required to present a passport to travel to the United States. Most Canadian citizens, citizens of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, and to a lesser degree, Mexican citizens will be affected by the implementation of this requirement.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
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